Biden to Name Californian as Chief Ag Negotiator

Published online: Sep 16, 2021 Articles Doug Palmer
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Source: Politico

President Joe Biden will announce on Monday that he has picked Elaine Trevino, a former California deputy secretary of food and agriculture, to be his chief agricultural trade negotiator, a source familiar with the nomination said.

Trevino is president of the Almond Alliance of California, a group that represents growers of California's second-largest agricultural export. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Latina and woman of color to hold the job.

The Job

Biden has been under pressure from farm-state senators to fill the position, which Congress created 20 years ago to elevate the importance of agricultural issues in U.S. trade negotiations. Depending on the year, anywhere from 18 percent to 40 percent of the income U.S. farmers earn is derived from goods transported to other countries.

By selecting Trevino, Biden helps fulfill his goal of bringing diversity into his administration, while also giving a key position to someone from the largest U.S. agricultural exporting state.

Her Background

Trevino served as a deputy secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture in the administrations of Govs. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Her responsibilities included oversight of international export and trade programs, specialty crop block grant funding, the division of marketing services, plant health and pest prevention and the statewide county fair network.

She was born and raised in California's Central Valley, an agriculturally rich area that is heavily dependent on irrigation to grow more than 250 crops. She now lives in Sacramento and is a member of USDA's Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee.

Trevino received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and attended Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

What's Next

The Senate Finance Committee will schedule a hearing on Trevino's nomination sometime after it has received her official paperwork from the White House.

Her nomination is the last of six Senate-confirmed positions in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that Biden needs to fill. Of those, only U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is already on the job.

Two other nominees — Sarah Bianchi and Jayme White, both for deputy USTR — have been approved by the Senate Finance Committee and are awaiting approval by the full Senate.

The Finance Committee has to schedule confirmation hearings for two other USTR nominees: María Pagán to be U.S. ambassador to the WTO and Christopher Wilson to be chief U.S. intellectual property negotiator.